Considering the most popular cryptid of them all practically resides in my backyard, here in the Pacific Northwest, it didn’t take long to decide who deserved the spotlight this month. You don’t have to travel very far before you’re surrounded by miles and miles of dense forest (approximately 22 million acres in Washington State alone) – an expanse large enough to credibly hide something that could be our closest relative. Does Bigfoot exist? I don’t profess to know all the answers about the fabled evolutionary throwback, but if the marketing gurus are to be believed, he’s alive and well. Around here, he’s a larger-than-life fixture, with T-shirts, bumper stickers, trinkets in gift shops, and even a local chain of coffee stands dedicated to the big, hairy fella. But as sprawling as the Pacific Northwest might be, Bigfoot’s wanderlust knows no bounds, with a Bigfoot variant for nearly every American state and Canadian province. And that’s not counting his overseas cousins, boasting sightings in nearly every corner of the globe.
A word of caution: This list isn’t intended to be a comprehensive overview of Bigfoot and his kin – the dozen movies covered here are only a small cross-section of the titles that have been filmed over the years.* If you can dream it, Sasquatch has probably been in it (yes, Bigfoot porn is a thing, and you can look for it yourself, if that’s your bag).
One final thing… Bigfoot and his relatives are notoriously difficult to spot, which unfortunately carries over to his many cinematic depictions. In addition to my standard star rating (ranked from one to five stars), I’ve included a “Visibility Rating,” ranging from one to four feet, indicating how much of the creature you can expect to see (i.e., one foot denotes nothing/indistinct, while four feet means you see the hairy hominid in all its glory.).
* Note: I purposely omitted one of the most notable titles, Hammer’s TheAbominable Snowman (1957), previously reviewed here.
Willow Creek (2013) Ho-hum, another found footage movie? Don’t let that deter you from seeing one of the best Bigfoot movies of the past decade. Jim (Bryce Johnson) plans to shoot a documentary, following in the footsteps of the controversial Patterson-Gimlin film, shot in Northern California, circa 1967 (alleged to show footage of the real Bigfoot). His skeptical girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) doesn’t share his enthusiasm for the project, but tries her best to be supportive. The film starts on a light note, featuring some amusing banter between the couple, and conversations with eyewitnesses and self-professed experts. The tone becomes increasingly darker as they head into Bigfoot’s supposed stomping grounds, encountering increasingly belligerent locals who want some secrets (which may or may not have to do with Sasquatch) to stay that way. Although the ambiguous ending might irritate some viewers, I appreciated how writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait decided to let our imaginations run wild, giving us just enough to make us question what we thought we saw or heard.
Rating: ***½. Available on Blu-ray, DVD, Kanopy and Tubi
Letters from the Big Man (2011) Lily Rabe (American Horror Story) stars as Sarah, a geologist hired to complete a survey for a logging company in the remote Oregon wilderness. In the midst of her travels, she runs into more than the usual flora and fauna. This earnest, reflective tale is as much about the titular creature as it is about a young woman, unlucky in love, running away and finding herself. They cross paths, but never quite seem to connect. Depending on how you look at it, Bigfoot’s presence could be taken literally or metaphorically, signifying her existential awakening.
Considering the film’s modest budget, Letters from the Big Man features some pretty decent makeup, brought to life through Isaac C. Singleton Jr.’s sensitive portrayal. He deserves the most credit for bringing the creature to life with his expressive eyes, conveying quiet intelligence and profound sadness. It’s a Bigfoot movie like no other, favoring introspection over adventure. It’s too bad this isn’t more widely available, because it’s something special.
Rating: ***½. Available on DVD (Out of Print) and Amazon Prime (for rental)
Half Human (aka: Jû Jin Yuki Otoko) (1955) Ishirô Honda’s Yeti-themed adventure is mostly famous for being unavailable, due to Toho Company’s self-imposed ban for its negative depiction of the Burakumin villagers in the film. That’s unfortunate, since it provides a fascinating alternate take on the legend. A team of college researchers navigate the treacherous Japanese Alps, searching for the Abominable Snowman and one of their lost comrades. They encounter villagers who idolize the creatures and want to keep their ways a secret. Hot on the heels of the college team are a group of entrepreneurs with less than noble intentions (hoping to capture the beast and exploit it in a sideshow). Half Human is atmospheric and filled with dread. It’s also a thoughtful, often grim examination of humanity’s corruption of the natural world for financial gain. Hopefully, Toho will reverse their decision, and release the film with a disclaimer. Until then, it’s not officially available streaming or in any physical format, but if you really want to see it there are other avenues (rhyming with “Schmeebay”).
Rating: ***½. Not available on home video (see above)
Harry and the Hendersons (1987) By far, the most obvious (and biggest-budgeted) title on the list is this kid-friendly movie from writer/director William Dear. While heading home from a family camping trip, George Henderson (John Lithgow) hits a strange animal with his station wagon. The creature that turns out to be – you guessed it. Dear’s amiable comedy essentially relies on one gag (probably 90 percent of the jokes have to do with the creature, whom the Hendersons dub “Harry,” breaking something because of his enormous bulk). Predictably, he’s not a fierce, bloodthirsty beast, but a gentle pescatarian who lives in harmony with nature. A little conflict is thrown into the mix when a big game hunter (David Suchet) who’s been tracking Bigfoot for years vows to kill the peaceful giant. It’s formulaic and often sappy, but diverting enough. If nothing else, it’s worth seeing for the best Sasquatch makeup, hands down (Or should I say, feet down?), courtesy of creature effects maker-extraordinaire, Rick Baker.
Fun bit of trivia: The man behind the makeup, 7-foot-2-inch Kevin Peter Hall also appeared as the eponymous alien in Predator, released the same year. How’s that for range?
Rating: ***. Available on Blu-ray and DVD
Snowbeast (1977) (Cue Ethel Merman’s singing voice) “There’s no beast, like Snowbeast, like Snowbeast, I know…” Okay, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration, since this made-for-TV movie basically lifts the plot from Jaws, transplanting it to the snowy slopes of a Colorado ski resort. Owner/matriarch Carrie Rill (Sylvia Sydney) is about to host her resort’s 50th anniversary celebration. Despite her grandson Tony’s (Robert Logan) protests, she isn’t about to let the disappearance and brutal murder of one of the guests stop her from moving forward with the festivities. Tony teams up with Olympic has-been Gar Seberg (Bo Svenson) and Sheriff Paraday (Clint Walker) to hunt the monster responsible for the rising body count. Oh, and there’s a soap opera-worthy love triangle between Gar’s wife Ellen (Yvette Mimieux) and her old flame Tony, just to complicate things. The creature itself (which the characters speculate to be Bigfoot) is barely seen, with brief glimpses of its arm and face. I suspect the choice to show less rather than more was due to budgetary considerations, however, rather than creative choices. Quibbles aside, it’s all in good fun and rarely dull (with a script by The Outer Limits’ Joseph Stefano). Just don’t expect it to add much to Bigfoot lore.
Rating: ***. Available on Amazon Prime
Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century (1977) How often have you heard the phrase, “It has to be seen to be believed”? In this instance, it’s not hyperbole, it’s warranted. This Italian production, set in Canada, is a mess from start to finish. A giant Yeti (Mimmo Crao) returns to life after being trapped in Arctic ice for a million-plus years. While a greedy entrepreneur (Edoardo Faieta) ponders all the ways he can exploit the gargantuan throwback, the Yeti is befriended by his grandchildren. In the meantime, his seedy right-hand man Cliff (Tony Kendall) plots to throw a monkey wrench in his plans, with the help of some hired goons. Before you can say “King Kong ripoff,” the confused and pissed off missing link is loose on the streets of Toronto, leaving a trail of destruction. Is it any good? It depends how you define “good.” It might not make many (or any) “Best of 1977” lists, but if you want to have a fun time, this might be the ticket (he even has his own disco theme song). At any rate, it’s a hell of a lot more enjoyable than the aforementioned King Kong remake released the previous year.
Rating: **½. Available on Blu-ray and Tubi
Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot (1976) This is another prime example of the pseudo-documentary format that was so popular in the 1970s, featuring dubious science and faked footage. We’re led to believe that that a serious expedition was mounted, to find the Sasquatch on his home turf. The explorers travel deep into uncharted British Columbian wilderness (the movie was actually shot in Oregon), where they experience some contrived run-ins with the wildlife (bears, badgers, and a poor mountain lion). In an effort to spice things up a bit, the many horse riding/camping scenes are intercut with a few dramatic re-enactments of other alleged run-ins with Bigfoot. For all our trouble, we never get a good look at the creature other than some blurry silhouettes.
Rating: **½. Available on Amazon Prime and Tubi
Shriek of the Mutilated (1974) A college professor (Alan Brock) invites a group of his most promising students to his home in upstate New York to search for the Yeti (what the Yeti is doing so far away from the Himalayas is anyone’s guess). For your listening pleasure, the film features the early electronic song “Popcorn” by the group Hot Butter (although the version I watched inexplicably dubbed over the music with some decidedly non-70s riffs). Also, one character sings a little ditty that wouldn’t be out of place in a Las Vegas lounge act (sans the questionable lyrics). Anyone looking for some serious Yeti action will be sorely disappointed. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something so far out of the norm that it creates its own alternate reality, look no further. The climactic twist, followed by an oddly placed joke, is just the cherry on the top of this bizarre sundae from director Michael Findlay.
Rating: **½. Available on DVD
Exists (2014) In this found footage horror flick from director Eduardo Sánchez (The Blair Witch Project), a bunch of self-absorbed 20-somethings (with a fondness for saying “bro” every few minutes) travel to a cabin in the East Texas thicket for a weekend of drinking and debauchery. After their SUV collides with something, however, their nightmare is just beginning. Soon, the clueless campers find themselves fighting for their lives. If you’re like me, you’ll probably find yourself rooting for the band of angry Sasquatch, instead of the obnoxious, bickering human protagonists. As the characters’ bad choices add up, prepare to check off that Found Footage Cliché bingo card. On the plus side, Exists delivers on its premise with some scary looking ape men that might justify giving this a watch.
Rating: **½. Available on DVD and Tubi
In Search of Bigfoot (1976) Not to be confused with the Leonard Nimoy-hosted ‘70s TV show, Lawrence Crowley and William F. Miller’s documentary follows Bigfoot enthusiast Robert Morgan and a team of handpicked “experts,” as they embark on a multi-month investigation in Washington State to find the elusive apelike biped. Most of the film relies on speculation from Morgan, and hearsay from local residents’ who supposedly encountered Bigfoot. At the end of the day, the evidence is nothing more substantive than a couple of mystery hairs (determined to be most likely human in origin) and an iffy footprint. The most interesting aspect of In Search of Bigfoot isn’t the quest for the cryptid, but the film’s role as a time capsule, providing a glimpse of the Mount Saint Helens area, only a few years before the volcano blew its top.
Rating: **½. Available on DVD and Tubi
The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) Charles B. Pierce’s docudrama, featuring re-enactments (starring some of the residents who allegedly experienced the incidents), is set in the small town of Fouke, Arkansas, which gives the “Fouke Monster” its name. If it’s not quite Bigfoot, then it’s a close relative, with three toes instead of five, and a tell-tale mournful howl. Numerous townspeople claim to have seen the Fouke Monster (responsible for stealing livestock and killing pets), but no tangible evidence has been found. The creature itself is barely seen. Expect bad narration (that tells rather than shows), bad acting, and bad folk music. It all adds up to a viewing experience that’s either excruciating or hilarious, depending on your point of view (or state of inebriation).
Rating: **. Available on Blu-ray and DVD
The Capture of Bigfoot (1979) A greedy businessman (Is there any other kind in these movies?) hires some bumbling trappers to capture a Bigfoot-like creature so he can profit from its display. The creature, known as Arak, supposedly originates from Native American legends about a protector. I have my doubts. Filmed in Wisconsin by director Bill Rebane, the general ineptitude of the production is alleviated slightly by the presence of character actor George “Buck” Flower as a town eccentric who spins monster tales that no one believes. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
Rating: **. Available on DVD (Out of print)